WASHINGTON – Attorney General Eric Holder had decided to tag the city of Ferguson, Missouri, and its police department as racist before the Department of Justice had finished its investigation, Mayor James Knowles said in an exclusive interview Thursday with WND.
“There is no way they were going to hold Darren Wilson to the standard of federal civil rights violations,” Knowles said a day after two Ferguson police officers were shot during more nighttime mayhem in the city. “They said that early on. They kept saying the standard was too high. They said, ‘Don’t get your hopes up.’ And so they didn’t say anything about Darren Wilson, but they came out and stuck it to us. I think those cards were laid back in September.”
Knowles noted that Holder was always quite open about his intention.
“Eric Holder has to be a terrible poker player because he tells his hand before it’s dealt,” he continued. “He came out and said that he was going to come after the Ferguson police department within a couple of days of the shooting.”
The outcome of the pre-investigation designed to determine whether a full-scale probe was even necessary, seemed predetermined, Knowles explained.
“They actually announced the investigation the same day I did my exit interview with them,” he recalled. “They told me it would be at least a week. Eric Holder had made the announcement before I got home from that interview with the DOJ. He had made up his mind he was going to come after us.”
That investigation resulted in a Department of Justice report charging the Ferguson police department with racist practices. Knowles suggested the city of Ferguson is going to fight the federal government’s demand for a consent decree and claimed there were flaws and misinformation in the findings.
“The stories that were recounted by the DOJ in the report … many of those were never verified or got the officer’s side of the story,” he said. “I think that in and of itself is cause for some concern. There’s a lot of that, honestly, and we’re putting together right now [cases] … where there’s very specific information about things they reported in that report they neglected to bring up.”
Asked for an example, Knowles noted the Department of Justice condemns the arrest of a “kid at the school” without mentioning the delinquent in question had pushed a pregnant, African-American principal to the ground in the middle of a fight.
“This principal … is furious right now, that it was portrayed that way.”
Knowles also challenged the idea the Ferguson police were targeting poor neighborhoods to persecute blacks.
“Wherever there is a concentration of poverty there is … a concentration of crime,” he explained. “When there is a concentration of crime, and people want us to do something about crime, that requires us to go out and engage, and be proactive in policing. That requires us to go out making contacts, stopping cars, doing searches, etcetera, to help keep those people safe. This goes back to the fact that there is a lot of data that shows the relationships. [The federal officials] have their own statistics that talk to this, and yet they completely ignored that in the report. They clearly cherry-picked statistics.”
Knowles points out that in gathering the complaints against the Ferguson police department, the Department of Justice put posters up in the area telling residents to meet with federal officials. However, according to Knowles, many of those who went to talk to the Department of Justice knowingly or unknowingly weren’t even complaining about Ferguson but another municipality’s police department in close proximity.
“Where Michael Brown was shot, you can go about 700 yards in three different directions and you are in a different city,” he said. “They all have high concentrations of poverty. I brought this up to the DOJ during the initial investigation. They had a couple of townhall meetings in the middle of all the unrest. They put flyers around town and sent out mailers that said, ‘Hey, come tell us your worst Ferguson police story. Nothing was ever verified as far as I can tell, that these incidents even took place in Ferguson.'”
The city of Ferguson was devastated by months of unrest following the shooting of teenager Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson Aug. 9, 2014. The controversy was fueled by eyewitness reports that Brown had been surrendering with his hands up.
But as even the recent DOJ report makes clear, Brown did not have his hands up and no charges were brought against Wilson by either a local grand jury or Holder’s department.
Mayor Knowles believes his own city is being scapegoated because of the Department of Justice’s inability to bring charges against Wilson. And he believes the reports that are being used to condemn the city are being driven by the same kind of unverified eyewitness accounts that caused the problem in the first place.
“My understanding is that all of that testimony for the report was unsworn statements,” he said. “They didn’t ask the officer what happened. They didn’t ask for the other side of the story. They didn’t swear on a Bible that this is what happened. They weren’t held under penalty of perjury.”
Knowles concedes the report found some abuses that were “indefensible,” notably some “anecdotes, racial slurs in an email, [and] poorly handled arrest[s] and high bond demands.”
However, he rejects the idea that his police department targeted blacks or that the city of Ferguson was engaging in racist practices. He also points to the large number of black elected officials in the area who categorically reject the idea the black community is somehow disenfranchised. And he told WND that the resistance against unfair practices by the Department of Justice is going to continue.
“In the next week, we have to sit down and negotiate with the DOJ some sort of resolution to this,” he said. “We are engaging some high-priced experts who are going to be assisting us with this, and while I don’t want to speculate on motives, I do think it is a cause for concern. There is a lot of data that wasn’t talked about in the report, and a lot of data that is in the report that clearly only supports that narrative they paint about us, neglecting to talk about any of the data that might mitigate their narrative.”
Knowles concluded about the city of Ferguson, “We’re not going to roll over.”
WND contributor Gina Loudon and WND staff writer Michael Thompson conducted the interview with Knowles.
See WND’s extensive reporting on Ferguson: